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Non vitae sed scholae

Non vitae sed scholae

When you read this I’ll be gone…to another university. Imbued with this momentum, I feel it’s the right time to express a concern based on the past years at UM/SBE.

This is my concern: Education, the raison d’être of academia, has become a nuisance to many.

The degradation of education is the result of two factors. First, teaching stands in the way of making an academic career. As careers are based on publications, researchers have better things to do than teaching. Second, it is the product of an efficiency-invoked sequence: 1. Universities require instant results (binding study advice). 2. Students want instant results and focus on passing the exam. 3. Researchers want instant publication results instead of teaching and engage in effort minimisation. Sometimes the third point results in courses that are ludicrous random collections of topics, radiating a couldn’t-care-less-attitude. At best, effort minimisation leads to focusing on exam relevant skills, deleting more thought-provoking philosophical reflections from the course as these raise time consuming discussions. Consequently, academic education evolves into some form of exam training. Graduation increasingly stands for passing the required number of exams, rather than the accomplishment of an academic attitude. Non vitae sed scholae discimus.

Although the above developments may be true for all universities, they also have serious consequences for UM specifically. Particularly they affect one of the pillars of the Maastricht approach, Problem Based Learning. I’ve seen it everywhere around me: in its current form PBL resembles to some kind of small scale lecturing. As students increasingly prefer the certainty of a ‘semi-private’ lecture on exam relevant stuff over group discussions, it becomes ever more difficult to abstain from this practice. Obstinate adherers to PBL consequently face mixed evaluations. PBL in its current form is about to die. Now the choice is between euthanasia for a better alternative or cure through re-inventing PBL. The current ad-hoc care will not save the patient.

Universities can’t be successful without good education. And education (PBL) is at the root of UM’s successes. It’s time we go back to these roots...ehm, you go back to the roots.


Thomas Thijssens

Lecturer at SBE



2015-04-08: David
Thank you very much for sharing these thoughts.

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